Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Renovator, not an Innovator.

“ I am distressed for thee, my brother... 2 Samuel 1:26 (AV)

The LA Story’s 1999 edition ‘From Here To Eternity’ commemorated the first twenty years (1979-1999) of Episode 1 that marked the end of the beginning stage of God’s modern-day movement a.k.a. the Boston movement better known as the International Churches of Christ (ICOC). The founders of Episode 1 were of the opinion that the Church of Christ denomination and other Denominational Churches did not accomplish the purpose of God due to faulty ‘systems’ and ‘mediocrity and traditions of men’. The new millennium and consecutive years ‘one-two-three’ were literally the ‘count-out’ for the ICOC as an organisation. Today, it exists as an incoherent organism. The interim years of 2003-2006 predominantly mark a power struggle between those “who is with [Kip] and who is against [Kip].” In “August 2005”, Kip McKean announced to the Portland fellowship, “is not a new beginning but an exciting Episode 2!”

The period of Episode 2 is a false start according to many ‘neutral’ or moderate ICOC churches. However, for the Portland International Church of Christ the race is on. The spectacular rise of the Portland ICOC is a constant ‘thorn in the flesh’ for many moderate ICOC fellowships who are no longer led by Kip McKean in the capacity of Missions/Lead Evangelist. However, a small number of ICOC congregations have strengthened Kip’s hand. The decision by the Johnsons to associate themselves with the McKeans will perhaps lead to more ‘prodical sons’ returning to the McKeans ‘old school’.

Not every one shares in the McKean’s optimism for the ICOC future as crustily stated in his August 21st, 2005 ‘Portland Story’. In fact, the majority of ICOC fellowships consecutively rejected the ‘Portland Story’. They were deeply insulted to be labelled “dying, former ICOC Churches.” A term ruthlessly applied in the same manner during the period of Episode 1 when the ICOC blasted the ‘mainline’ Church of Christ and other Denominational Churches for being “dying churches”. Kip’s verdict in ‘Revolution Through Restoration Part 2’, stated, “Denominational churches are dying. The mainline Church of Christ is dead.”

Ironically, Kip admitted that the ICOC is dead or was it?

“Gone, I believe, is the ICOC, I mean it’s a name we invented in 1994 anyway. Many churches have renounced the name International Churches of Christ and just going back to Church of Christ because they want to be identified with the Churches of Christ. I mean, good gravy, there are only a hundred of ‘em. That sure gives you distinction. But God forbid you’d be identified with others that are radical, revolutionary, dreamers to take the gospel to all nations, in one generation.” [Source: Kip McKean, ‘A Great Light Has Dawned’, June 2004]

Here lies the crux of the matter. The revolutionary message by “dreamers to take the gospel to all nations, in one generation” of an era captured in Episode 1 has reached its limit and spilled over in Kriete’s anguished letter for much needed ‘Revolution Through Repentance and Freedom in Christ’. The era of Episode 1 hailed the ICOC and Kip McKean part of the pantheon of Major Christian Movements and company like Jesus, the apostle Paul, Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley, Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone. [Source: LA Story, ‘Breaking Away’, August 13, 1995]

Here, the magazine provides an insightful 5-pointer “Why Movements Fail”. It compares well to the reasons why the ICOC movement has failed!

“All movements have failed to repeat the early Christians’ success because of: 1) Failure to hold to the Scriptures 2) Failure to sacrifice self and renounce sin 3) Failure to love each other deeply 4) Failure to remain unified 5) Failure to keep their purpose clear. When any movement for God fails in these ways, it becomes just a Monument.”

The principle of “Continual Restoration - Man, Message, Momentum, Maintenance, and Monument” has reached an “unavoidable fork in the road” in the outcome of Kriete’s ‘Honest to God’ letter. No longer do ‘mature disciples’ like myself think like twenty year old campus students “to work the plan” or “pack a bag, go any where, do anything, give up everything” for the sake of “leaders in the Boston movement.” Rather, we ‘mature disciples’ go by faith “doctrinally and practically when we have seen the truth in the Scriptures.” How oblivious are those who follow a failed and tried doctrine of “God’s man, Message and Movement.”

Here, the articles of ‘Revolution Through Restoration, Part 1 & 3’ and ‘The Mandate of God for World Evangelism’ series written by Kip McKean do not carry innovative schemes but renovate dreams of God’s ‘former’ modern-day movement a.k.a. the Boston movement better known as the International Churches of Christ.

The ICOC organisation cannot ‘innovate’ itself [bring in new methods or ideas] because we who have lived and experience the epic of Episode 1 know “its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! (Colossians 2:21 NIV) At the same time as political movements like Communism (1917-1991), Nazism (1933-1945) or Apartheid (1948-1994) the ICOC (1979-2003) have tried innovations and eventually succumbed! Let us be more specific.

The ICOC cannot ‘innovate’ its own ‘First Principles’ just as much as Robert E. Coleman cannot ‘innovate’ ‘The Master Plan of Evangelism’. Nor can it improve on its core doctrine of ‘sold-out disciples’ and belief system base on ‘Disciples=Christian=Save’ because “I [Kip McKean] composed this controversial equation to convict and help individuals with a denominational church background to see that they were not true Christians. ... In retrospect, this restored doctrine was the beginning of the formal split between the Boston churches and the mainline Church of Christ.” [Source: Kip McKean, ‘RTR 2 - The Movement of God’, 1994]

Biblically, we understand that not even the Judaizers (Christian Jews) could ‘innovate’ nor ‘renovate’ Jewish Laws in order to ‘enslave’ Gentile men to be circumcised. The concept of ‘freedom in Christ’ elevates believers of the Cross to a realm that is not earthbound. First and foremost, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 NIV) Secondly, “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:17-20 NIV) Here too, we must come to grips that the cause of the ICOC is lost, unless, the ICOC leadership ‘renovate’ [restore to good condition or repair] former ICOC doctrines just for the sake of the stomach! In my opinion, the standard admonishment of the New Testament will judge the new era of Episode 2 in the Portland movement, as it judged the Boston movement in the era of Episode 1. “Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them” and “ Their teaching will spread like gangrene.” (Matthew 7:20, 2 Timothy 2:17 NIV)

The McKean’s are the founders of both controversial Episodes. Nevertheless, in my opinion, many Christians can learn a great deal from their dedication and commitment issuing Jesus’ message on local and foreign fields. After all, I owe my salvation to Christ, who has touched my heart through their evangelistic efforts of the Boston movement. To deny this in my opinion will be utterly foolish! Nevertheless, I strongly oppose their methods of discipleship and perception on the Kingdom of God.

The invaluable contribution that the husband-wife team made towards the meteoric phenomenal rise of the Portland ICOC cannot be overlooked. As young students they have embarked on a journey that they will complete to the end. However, here we must stress how vulnerable young hearts can be to discipleship methodologies, which can ultimately rule the heart without compromise as in the situation of the McKeans.

Thomas ‘Kip’ McKean born in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 31, 1954 and Elena Garcia-Bengochea born in Havana, Cuba on September 2, 1955 were both baptised as very young students (18 and 17 years old) in the Crossroads Church of Christ. Kip’s baptism is either April 11, 1972 according to RTR 1, “At the end of my freshman year at the University of Florida, I was invited by Sam Laing, a Sigma Chi fraternity brother, to a devotional of 90 college students. This devotional was sponsored by the 14th Street Church of Christ (later renamed Crossroads). This church in Gainesville had begun a pilot program in campus ministry for the Churches of Christ five years earlier. [1967] The Churches of Christ wanted to impact the campuses and initially modeled their efforts after Campus Crusade and called this program Campus Advance. Here I was taught to give up everthing for Christ and be baptized for the remission of my sins to become a Christian. This commitment I made in the early hours of April 11, 1972”; or April 11, 1971 according to a late article titled, ‘Celebrating 50!’ on Portland Church website, that read as follows, “Elena was baptized into Christ on August 8, 1972. (I was baptized as a freshman on April 11, 1971)”. [Author’s note: The year 1971 is a type error, many records ascribe to 1972.]

In my opinion Kip’s current ministry is about renovation, renovation and more renovation from here to eternity! Today there exists a war between the ‘house of Renovation’ and the ‘house of Innovation’ within the International Churches of Christ [2 Samuel 3]. This war affects the morale of the youth now known as ‘Generation Y’, among the 105 000 strong membership of this organisation. Fortunately, the battle is contained within the borders of the U.S. ICOC churches.

However, we can no longer ignore the following pivotal issues as observed in 2006.

Firstly. Former ICOC teachings Kriete’s letter made undone in 2003 is already being ‘repaired’ in the Portland ICOC. How soon will other moderate ICOC fellowships catch-up?

Secondly, Kip’s position is fortified with Steve Johnson’s addition to Portland Church staff since January 15, 2006. In the past, Kip describe Steve Johnson, a former ACES World Sector leader during the Manila World Leadership Conference in 1994 as the “glue of the World Sector Leaders”. The question remains if his “right hand cranker”, Douglas Arthur, formerly Commonwealth WSL will fully commit to the cause of Portland ICOC. McKean, Portland’s Lead Evangelist, appointed Johnson as an Associate Lead Evangelist.

Celebrating his 50th birthday this colossus of Episode 1 stated in 2004, “I am just as vigorous to battle the spiritual forces of evil to evangelise the world as in the early days of Boston!” A year later, Steve Johnson stated, “wherever Kip goes, I go.” [Source: Steve Johnson, ‘Forceful, Respectful Preaching’, Seattle Leadership Conference, September 8, 2005.]

Thirdly, Portland ICOC has boldly embraced an ‘old school’ doctrine of the bygone era in the Boston movement, which contrast sharply with moderate ICOC thinking not to repeat “the same short-term attractive results and the same long-term painful results.” Thus, according to a moderate group, Portland’s ambitions are not ‘politically correct’. McKean stand accused by certain ICOC leaders for not co-operating “with other leaders in a true adult to adult relationships”. In a statement by the ‘62-signatories’, “You are no longer a young man with lack of experience for an excuse.” McKean’s teachings and websites “contain unseemly, immature and unwholesome self-promotion and propaganda” that have not escaped their notice. In short, they stated, “You are confusing and exploiting many who are young, as well as those who are unaware of your past sins.”

In conclusion, ICOC leadership and members outside Kip McKean’s influence have an obligation to the youth - Generation Y to block ‘renovate’ ICOC doctrines. It is not a question of “re-set broken bones”, but taking the matter much deeper. The question remain. How prepared are moderate ICOC Christians?

Lately, the stakes have been raised with Portland’s intension to tap into ‘The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg’ - campus evangelism.

(Next articles: “Y” going underground? and Dinosaurs Past, and Present 2b)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Why is Portland’s ‘Generation Why’ unique?

When I first started to write about the ICOC, in my hand I held a butcher’s knife.
Now, I thank God it is a pen!

Greetings to all current and former ICOC students.
Peace be with you!

DJ Comisford is a very young Campus Minister of the Portland International Church of Christ. He was baptised “in January, 2002 of [his] sophomore year of college, after studying the Bible for three months!” He married “on December 17th 2005”. Comisford recently announced a brand new web portal meant for students affiliated worldwide with the International Churches of Christ (ICOC). Comisford’s article, “Adullam Underground (Adullam ‘U’)” on Portlands website speaks directly in the context of his own generation known as ‘Generation Y’ a.k.a. ‘Generation Why’. He writes, “My generation is unique.”

Why is Generation Y unique?
Admittedly, I had to do some research of my own in order to get a better understanding what “define and characterize generations.” Wikipedia, states, “Generations are shaped by their childhood experiences, and then defined by their early-adulthood actions, when each generation can consciously adopt or reject the attitudes or actions of prior generations.” Demographers relies on various methods for example “the experience of formative national events as one tool to demarcate generations.”

Why is Generation Y unique? It becomes clear when we consider the following. Comisford received his “high school diploma” in June 2000. He was part of the “first class of students to graduate in the 21st century.” Furthermore, Comisford is part of “the first generation to fully appreciate the effects of the ‘Digital Revolution’.

The New Testament warns Titus and Timothy about “endless genealogies” that “promotes controversies rather than God’s work” (1 Timothy 1:4) or to “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments” (Titus 1:14). This is true today even amongst demographers having a hard time nailing “the exact year ranges of the generations.”

It is not my intension with this article to argue around genealogies, but rather, to look into how Generation X relate to Generation Y in the context of the ICOC fellowship. The ICOC is a very young fellowship, merely spanning 27 years from its ‘official’ 1979-year to 2006.
How do former or current members of the ICOC correlate with Comisford’s generation?

Personally, I do not relate to “Y” from a genealogy point of view. Born in 1970. Growing up in the 1980’s and becoming a young adult in the 1990’s places me with Generation X (1965-1981). Kip McKean’s children like Comisford are stock of Generation Y (1981[2]-2000[03]). In my time, from birth to early-adulthood, a computer was a novelty not a machine to be found in every household. Therefore, there was no Internet what so ever. No cell phones what so ever. No digital cameras, except digital wristwatches! No DVD’s but video machines and later CD-players were the modern appliances of my time, which was my generation.

Base on these facts; let us consider that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV) We can argue that generation to generation respective ‘conversion stories’ or baptisms within the ICOC remains the same. You were once a visitor. You studied the Bible. You were baptised as a disciple. However, our conversion stories differ considerably from our parent church, the ‘mainline’ Church of Christ because they never described their baptism as a type of ‘disciple baptism’. Meaning you have to become ‘first a disciple’ in the context before a Christian before getting baptised; Kip McKean formulated this technique in 1981; It was taken up in Douglas Jacoby’s multi-author publication, “Disciple = Christian = Saved” [(Jacoby, ‘Shining Like Stars, ii edition, 1990, page 142]; seven years later, this issue was one of the prime reasons Boston caused a church split!

My conversion experience certainly draws a parallel with Comisford’s Bible studies and subsequent baptism but my time factor was much shorter! As a young adult, twenty years of age I have completed the following ICOC Bible studies known as ‘First Principles’ within three days studying night and day! ‘The Word’; ‘Discipleship’; ‘KOG’; ‘The Cross’; ‘Davis’ Medical Account of the Crucifixion’; ‘Sin & Repentance’; ‘Light & Darkness’; ‘Denominations/Church’; ‘False Doctrines’; ‘The Holy Spirit’; ‘Jesus is Lord’! This was possible because I was a university student with plenty time on hand during my summer holiday break! I was baptised in the early morning hours in the sea of Camps Bay at Cape Town to become the 70th member/disciple of the Cape Town Church of Christ in its start-up year of 1990 of which Dave Peden, the tall American evangelist presides in the month of November. Not many in the ICOC can relate their baptisms to this ‘chariot-ride’ but we all can relate to the same standard of Bible studies used. In 1992 the entire Cape Town Church of Christ underwent a ‘reconstruction’, meaning to see if one is still acting like a disciple. It was at this time when our ‘campus minister’ told me he couldn’t find the evidence of the Holy Spirit in my live! [No people personally baptised= no fruit] I was subsequently re-baptised. Many started to leave the church over the years, even my ‘campus minister’ but I stayed faithful to the ICOC until 2000.

However, ‘the ICOC organism’ has several generations of baptisms. Some have a pre-1979 baptismal experience. Special mentioning is Douglas Jacoby (23 October 1977) and men like Chuck Lucas and Sam Laing who have baptised Kip McKean, April 11, 1972. Church of Christ ‘leaders’ from “1983 on through the 80’s” according to Kip McKean’s ‘Revolution Through Restoration 1’ article, “had to unlearn their past traditions and misconceptions before they could really learn how to build churches. The training for someone baptized out of the world in Boston and for someone who moved to train in Boston was exactly the same.” Here, “Many of the men who were leaders in the different elements of the Churches of Christ, who came to train to build churches of disciples, discovered they had not been baptized as disciples themselves. In the world’s eyes they were rebaptized. In God’s eyes, they were baptized into Jesus Christ (Acts 19:1-5).” Let us note that the reference of this scripture indicates these leaders never heard before about the ‘disciples baptism’ as John’s disciples in a late stage of Christianity never heard before of the Holy Spirit! “Of special note are: …Dave Peden, Mike Taliaferro… Gordon Ferguson… Others were not rebaptized, as they felt they had made the decision to be disciples (usually not with that terminology) when they were baptized: …Sam Laing…Henry Kreite…Douglas Jacoby…”

Obviously, once a year each ‘disciple generation’ relate to different ‘Kingdom’ experiences. The generation of the “Thirty-Would-Be Disciples” of 1979 were different from those with Chuck Lucas 1967 generation. Lucas’ Soul-talks and prayer-buddies become McKean’s Bible-talks and disciple partners. The ‘disciple generation’ sprout from the early Boston movement era somewhat co-here with ‘mainline’ Church of Christ until 1988 divide. The rapid expansion across the world of the ICOC era also produced the philosophy “God’s man, message and movement” which is completely ‘uncool’ for the ‘disciple generation’ in the post-Henry Kriete Letter era of 2003. We can make many cross-reference associations, but one final and important one is the eras of persecution. The Boston movement later known as the ICOC was intensely persecuted by ‘mainline’ Church of Christ, former members and the media. It was so bad that new recruits were told its normal because we follow Jesus! “Jesus was persecuted – his worst enemies were his fellow Jews. First Century Christians were persecuted – not different now.” I come to know a Jesus who was “Lord in the Midst of Persecution” as stated in a South African Count the Cost study guide. ‘Equipping Syllabus’ stated, “Anything with commitment and religion is suspect these days – the issue is Jesus and what God commands. You will be persecuted – no one knows to what extent – must be willing to die for Jesus. If you are willing to die, a little newspaper article with misinformation or twisted information will not stop you!”

Let us note that in the actual era of Generation X outsiders opposed us! Disciples never ever dared to question the Church, the movement of God! In the year 2000, my wife and I, like so many before us, also bravely queried unbiblical ICOC practices like, 1) authoritarian leadership structures; 2) hierarchical discipleship practices; 3) First Principal Bible study series a different Gospel – Galatians 1; 4) In-out talks with Weak and Faithless Christians were unbiblical!

At last, Henry Kriete’s 2003 letter forced the Port Elizabeth Church of Christ to recognise their mistakes and they apologized to us, but in the end, what happened to me happened to John Engler!

Today’s Generation Y in the Portland International Church of Christ experience persecutions not from traditional enemies but from various ICOC churches!

This makes them truly unique!

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